by Jennifer on August 30, 2010

Last week, I attended the first of two co-parenting sessions, a class that’s court-ordered for all parents who are going through a divorce or separation from the other parent. The point of the class is to teach us how to communicate better with each other and to make a difficult transition easier on our kids.

Throughout the session, there were opportunities to ask questions or to relate experiences. The accounts were not so much stories as knots of circumstance set out before the group. Here, they seemed to say, just try untangling this.

We’ve all heard Tolstoy’s observation, the first line of Anna Karenina:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

If that group was a representative sample, then Tolstoy had it right. But I noticed something else. There was a common pitch to the voice of each parent – mother or father – who spoke up, as though they had all gathered before the session and tuned their voices to the same key.

Stories, in the key of fear.

The details varied. But that fear – of losing contact with a child, of giving up control over circumstance, of being excluded, of failing one’s children – was a constant.

My mind went to an overdone (but apt) metaphor:  We’re all in the same boat here.

In that group, some are just starting out in this process, newly separated and still shell-shocked. Some have a year or more behind them; others, well into their second tour of duty.

As different as our stories are, so are the destinations. We won’t all end up at the same place. Fair isn’t always fair and all outcomes are not created equal. At best, agreements are forged that make good sense for everyone, and the children most of all.

Some of us in that group will sort things out and disembark sooner than the rest. Others will remain at sea for a very long time, until a resolution seems to lie somewhere far beyond the line of the horizon. (That feeling, I know.)

But wherever this boat leaves each of us, I can’t help but think that none of us will step off of it without feeling tossed about and banged up, no matter how much we paid for a ticket. All of us, in steerage for at least part of the journey.

Until we reach our port, where – storm-beaten and a little seasick – we’ll weave our way toward solid ground.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

lisa milton August 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Though it doesn’t sound like much fun, I think maybe it’s smart, this mandatory class thing. I know you only get out of it what you chose to, but I have a particular ex in mind – my best friend’s husband of late – that could have used some tips.

Or maybe I’m just wishing he was entirely the person I thought he was.

Until you reach your port, I hope the sea is calm, and your children, safe and well.

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios August 30, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Sorry you are facing this, but I truly believe you have the grace, heart, and smarts to make it work.

Jenn @ Juggling Life August 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I know from my friends that are divorced that the lack of control was definitely the hardest part of co-parenting. Some help in navigating this trying time can only be a good thing–I hope that’s how it works out for you.

Lennie August 30, 2010 at 8:00 pm

I know this is “court ordered”, but still, I strongly commend you for participating. If only sessions such as these existed decades ago, children of divorce like the child I once was might have had a less-rocky childhood. Of course, “might” is a big word. Still. Bravo for trying, and a bigger bravo for continuing to try. Don’t let the big waves or the undertow get the best of you. Somehow though, I know you won’t 🙂

flutter August 30, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Only you could make this sound so gorgeous.

Suzanne August 31, 2010 at 1:07 am

As others have said, I hope that these classes will help you and your children through this difficult transition.

Emily August 31, 2010 at 5:53 am

I hope you can get off the boat as soon as possible

Slow Panic August 31, 2010 at 11:31 am

I’m with flutter. Beautiful.

And also heart-wrenching and I hate that you are going through this but stay strong. stay strong. every day you get a little stronger.

the mama bird diaries August 31, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Hope you get to land sooner, rather than later. Sorry you are going through this.

lee August 31, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Oy. I remember these classes well. At the time, my ex and I were still amicable. I had no idea the worst was yet to come.

Jane September 1, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I’m always amazed at the way you can take a figure of speech and spin it out so that it seems absolutely natural and effortless. Is it? Do these metaphors come to you whole, or do you work at them?

anymommy September 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Hoping there are many lights out there to guide you in. Your ability to see others as you struggle through something so huge is such a gift.

Texasholly September 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I love the statement “Stories, in the key of fear” because I know that is how it would be for me. I hate the situation, but loved how you handled it.

Chris September 19, 2010 at 10:10 am

I apologize for falling off radar for a while. Life’s been busy… I’m sorry you’re enduring this, but what a lovely post. I love the beautiful place that this blog has become. So pretty… like you. 🙂

Average Girl October 8, 2010 at 7:36 am

Loved your comment over at Mama Bird, so wanted to pop over and say hello.

This was a very thoughtful (and lovely in its own way) post…wishing you all the best~

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